Updated: Nov 22, 2022
From beginner hobbyists through to seasoned professionals, we all have at least one thing in common – bad training sessions. You know the kind, where you come away feeling like you shouldn’t have bothered and you might as well quit and go get a normal hobby like reading or making soap.
Let me jump right in here with tip number one.
1. A bad training session is better than no training session So what if you couldn’t get that combo you were working on in class, or you bailed out of that move you’ve done dozens of times before, or your splits seems to have regressed back to a 90 degree angle. You showed up. Sometimes that’s the most important thing, especially if we’re feeling depressed or demotivated or just plain tired. You showed up and you walked through that door and today’s bad training session might just be step one on the journey to your next level.
2. Comparison is the thief of joy This quote has been attributed to Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain and it’s something I think about a lot. If you are constantly comparing yourself to other people you will never be content for two reasons: a) everyone is on a different journey and b) you will never be able to view yourself objectively. You will look at other people and say ‘oh they look so graceful/strong/elegant/impressive’ and with the same voice you’ll tell yourself how much of a big potato you are.
In the society we’ve grown up in it’s not considered admirable to brag so we constantly downplay our achievements and internalise our own criticisms. It’s likely that the person who says the meanest things about you is you. Everyone is at different stages of their own journey and every journey is unique. You might be coming to aerial much later in life with no background of movement. You might have three jobs or three kids or insomnia (or all of these). You might just be struggling a little more at the moment. If you look at the person who trained at the Moscow School of Ballet and gets 9hrs of uninterrupted sleep every night and just naturally hates the taste of cake and you judge yourself by the same standard then you’re only going to fall short and feel sad about it. Instead, look at your own path and be proud of where you are on it even if today is a particularly difficult day.
3. Don't set yourself up for a fall Students often bring me things they’ve seen on Instagram that they want to work on in lessons. This is a double-edged sword because whilst it can be a great source of inspiration, as with all social media it gives you an entirely false sense of how easy it was to get there. You will hear me say this a lot - social media is a lie. The most common thing I see when students present me with a picture of something they want to try from Instagram is a move that looks quite simple but actually requires a background in contortion to achieve. And if you’ve ever been to a photo shoot where your instructor has grabbed your foot and shoved it into your hand and you’ve held it for a nanosecond and prayed that the photographer managed to snap it, you’ll know what I mean. You might see a flawless video of a beautiful combo from your favourite aerialist. What isn’t shown in that minute long video is that it’s the 19th time they’ve filmed that combo. It’s also the 50th time they’ve done it. And they’ve made sure the angle of the camera catches that split and hides that wonky foot. Don’t save crazy contortion moves if you know that you can’t touch your toes without a half hour warm up. Don’t save crazy drops if being on the top bar alone scares you. Save achievable things, ask your instructor to show you an easier version of something that you like or get them to give you things to work on so that you can move towards that goal. Put it in your Work In Progress list, not in your I Must Do This Today Or I’m Quitting Forever List. In fact, burn that second list entirely, it’s the cause of all your problems.
4. Train with people who make you feel good I have a running joke with one of my fellow instructors; we call our sessions Bitch Moan Coffee Train because we spend at least half of the session airing out all our woes and catching up over coffee before we even touch the equipment. With this tip I do find everyone is different. I like training with my best friends because they make me feel safe and comfortable and un-judged and we laugh as much as we train. I don’t hugely enjoy training with people who are far more advanced than me because it makes me feel inadequate. This is my issue, not theirs, but because I know it makes me feel bad I stay away from it if I’m having a less than positive day. I also don’t love training with people who have hugely different skill sets or who like completely different styles of aerial, eg. I’m stronger than I am bendy, I like flow more than dynamics and trying to be sexy makes me feel really awkward. So unless I’m specifically trying to work on that skill set and I feel ready to push myself out of my comfort zone, I will often come away feeling deflated and unsuccessful. However, lots of people love training with higher level friends because it inspires them and pushes them. They might love trying something that’s totally alien to them because it helps them grow. It’s like how some people love bootcamp style fitness and they find being yelled at motivational. If you yell at me I will cry and leave. Train with people who make you happy and you will have a much more successful session.
5. Be positive Don’t dismiss this, it’s important! I know it sounds like saying to someone with depression ‘have you tried being happy?’ but it does have a basis in cognitive behavioural science because the first part of changing your actions is changing your thought patterns. If you only say negative things to yourself then of course you will feel bad. I love this wise adage from ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:
I am constantly reminding students in class not to say mean things about themselves, we’re all guilty of it. When you’re critiquing your training session I want you to try and think about all the things you liked about it. Even if you didn’t nail that move you wanted to get, maybe you were a bit closer than last time? Maybe you tried a move you didn’t get ages ago and it felt easier this time. Maybe you had a new pair of leggings and they looked fab. Maybe you just had a good laugh with a friend and enjoyed a nice coffee. Actively look for the good things that happened instead of drowning yourself in the bad things. It might help to keep a little journal and write those positives down at the end of your session.
6. If in doubt, condition This is a little known gem is from our own straps teacher Ed, who suffered a herniated disc in his spine and had a long road to recovery, during which he often felt really low in mood and motivation. He told me a little secret that changed the way I train completely – if you’re having a bad day for creativity, motivation and inspiration just do conditioning. It doesn’t require thought or feeling or anything more than going through the motions but the benefits are immense. You might not have managed that crazy backwards oversplit meathook planche (yes I made that up, don’t try that), but you can do leg lifts, you can do crunches, you can do tuck ups. And in doing all those conditioning moves when you feel low in motivation, chances are when your motivation has returned (and it WILL return), you’ll be that much stronger.
If all else fails, have another coffee and try again tomorrow.